Saturday, January 16, 2016

Yet Another Year of the GameBoy: Tumblepop

To know me--or at least the part of me that enjoys playing video games--is to know that I love single-screen platformers.

If this is the first time you've come across that phrase, it's basically used to describe and categorize games like Bubble Bobble and Don Doko Don and Snow Bros.

Also, despite this genre's name, not all of the games included under its umbrella stick to a single screen. Taito's Parasol Stars is a good example.

The game I'm covering here, Data East's Tumblepop, is another example. Or at least its GameBoy port is, as some of its many, many stages scroll to cover more than that handheld's standard screen acreage.

That's not really the point of this post, though. (Don't worry, I'll talk about this portable version's gameplay, graphics and soundtrack in an upcoming write-up.) The point is to applaud the wonderful packaging Data East produced for the Japanese GameBoy port of Tumblepop.

I mean, seriously, look at the lovely piece of art that's plastered across the cover of Tumblepop's box.

OK, so I guess it's kind of weird that the game's title is a bit off-center, but I can deal with that when everything else is so on point.

I especially love how the pumpkin enemy's claws (or at least I think those claws belong to old pumpkin head) are gouging the ground before it--you know, because it's being sucked into a super-powered vacuum.

In case you weren't aware, the protagonists in Tumblepop wield vacuum cleaners and use them to suck up baddies and spit them back out at other baddies. As for why they do this, well, I'm not entirely sure, although I have a feeling the game or its manual explains it in some loosely acceptable manner.

The back of Tumblepop's box (see above and below) gives viewers a better look at this, er, weapon of mass de-suck-tion, in case you're curious.

Somewhat unfortunately, both Tumblepop's car label and manual cover feature the same piece of art that's found on the front of its box. Oh, well, at least it's a nice piece of art.

Also, at least the manual cover strips some of the color out of the art--which is pretty par for the course when it comes to Japanese GameBoy manuals. (Here is one more example, and here's yet another.) 

The interior of Tumblepop's instruction manual is anything but "par for the course," if you ask me. I especially like that the art style utilized for its illustrations is a bit different from the one utilized for its cover art. 

As for Tumblepop's in-game aesthetics, I'd describe them as acceptable. Obviously they're hurt by the fact that they're black and white (or black and green) rather than the full spectrum of the rainbow, but besides that they're also a bit ... basic? Bland?

That's not meant to cast aspersions on this portable port, by the way. Even with the somewhat uninspired visuals, Tumblepop for GameBoy is a fun little single-screen platformer.

Like I said earlier, I'll publish a write-up that more thoroughly critiques this title's gameplay shortly. In the meantime, you should consider heading over to my Flickr photostream, especially if you'd like to see a couple more photos of its lovely packaging.

See also: previous '(Another) Year of the GameBoy' posts

Thursday, January 14, 2016

6 DS, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360 games I'm looking forward to playing at some point in 2016

Unlike the last two of these "six games I'm looking forward to playing at some point in 2016," all of the titles included here have been out for quite some time.

Also, I already own all of them. Well, all but one. Can you guess which game I've yet to buy?

If you guessed Alien: Isolation, pat yourself on the back. Or do something else that makes you feel good.

While you do that, I'll share a few thoughts on why I want to play these DS, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360 titles a little bit more than I want to play other DS, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360 titles between now and the end of the year.

Alien: Isolation (Xbox 360)--Considering I'm a huge fan of the first two Alien films, it's almost criminal that I've yet to pick up a copy of Isolation. Of course, it's been ages since I turned on my poor 360, so I guess my lack of action here can't be considered too shocking. Still, I've heard very good things about this Alien game, which is a shock itself, as nearly every other Alien-inpired game in existence is a complete turd. (Note I said "nearly"--I know a select few of them are worth playing.) I know that doesn't ensure I'll actually enjoy Alien: Isolation, but I'm willing to give it a try anyway.

Captain Rainbow (Wii)--In my defense, I bought this bizarre, skip-made game just a few months ago. In other words, I've barely ignored it compared to the other titles mentioned here. I don't epect it to be neglected for much longer, though, as it looks delightfully weird. (Yes, even for a skip game.) The question is: will the language barrier limit my ability to bask in Rainbow's brilliant glow? I guess we'll find out sometime in the next 12 months.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA (PSP)--Although I've kept a curious eye on Sega's Hatsune Miku series of games (even the chibi-fied Project Mirai titles released for the 3DS) for some time, I've yet to actually play one of them. I hope to change all of that this year by picking up one of the PSP games. Why DIVA and not Mirai? As much as I love all things cute, I prefer the aesthetics of the former series to the latter. The thing is, I have no idea which Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA release to get. Any suggestions?

Okaeri! Chibi-Robo! Happy Richie Osoji (DS)--Here's another game that's been on my short list of "games to buy as soon as possible" for a good while now. I haven't gone through with it yet for a few reasons, with one of them being that copies of this Japan-only release can be a bit pricey. Another reason: I have very little experience with Chibi-Robo, and I feel kind of weird jumping into it with the third game. It probably would make for an interesting entry in my #ADecadeofDS series, though, don't you think?

Opoona (Wii)--Full disclosure: I actually played about an hour--or maybe it was just 30 minutes or so--of this unique RPG a couple of years ago before moving on to something else for some reason or other. (It wasn't because I disliked what I'd experienced to that point, I can tell you that much.) Anyway, it popped back into my conscienceness when I bought Captain Rainbow and two other Jpanaese Wii titles last autumn (one was Tabemon, released elsewhere as The Munchables), and now I'm chomping at the bit to give it a second chance.

Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman (PSP)--I like pretty much everything about this 2010 Nippon Ichi release--with its overall art style and its gameplay (which is focused on exploring randomly generated dungeons) being the highlights. So why have I dragged my feet on playing it? The only answer I can come up with at the moment is that I don't pull out my pair of PSP systems as much as I did a few years ago, and so a number of enticing games have kind of fallen by the wayside. One of my goals of 2016 is to rectify that situation, though, so hopefully I'll have something to say about Z.H.P. and at least a couple of other choice PSP titles before the year comes to a close.

I don't suppose any of you are looking forward to playing any particular "last gen" games (and, yes, that includes the PS3) at some point in 2016? If so, let me know which ones in the comments section that follows.

Monday, January 11, 2016

6 3DS games I'm looking forward to playing at some point in 2016

Along with the pile of 3DS games mentioned in my recent pair of "5 games I bought in 2015 that I've regrettably (and embarrassingly) failed to play" posts, I'm also looking forward to playing at some point in 2016:

Bravely Second--I know a lot of people hated Bravely Default, and I mostly understand why that is. Personally, though, I loved the game. Yes, it had its shortcomings--chief among them, for me at least, being its annoying chattiness--but the rest of it was so sublime It wasn't hard for me to overlook the ugly bits. I've heard that this oddly named sequel has its own share of pitfalls, but I'm determined to buy and play it anyway. I mean, there's no chance Bravely Second's negatives will be anywhere near as bad as Default's, right?

Dragon Quest VII--I've wanted to play through the original PlayStation iteration of the game ever since I quite literally wrenched myself away from my beloved copy of Dragon Quest IX. What's kept me from starting that predecessor? The astronomical pricetags usually attached to complete versions of Dragon Quest VII is one. Another is that VII's supposed to be  a real time sink. Thankfully, this 3DS remake addresses both if those problems (in a way), as launch copies should be $50 or even $40, tops, and the length issue will be less of a worry due to its portability. In other words, this sucker can't be released too soon, as far as I'm concerned.

Final Fantasy Explorers--I'm kind of baffled that I decided to pre-order the North American version of this Final Fantasy offshoot, to tell you the truth. I downloaded and played the game's Japanese demo shortly after it was made available in late 2014 and walked away from it feeling ambivalent. On the one hand, Explorers looks a bit rough. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all if someone revealed that the game began life as a DS game before being ported to the 3DS. I also don't much care for the odd aesthetics of this title's character models. On the other hand, I thought Explorers' real-time gameplay was at least competent, and I'm strangely attracted to adventures that focus on completing quests these days. At any rate, I'm not going to cancel my pre-order now, so hopefully the positives outweigh the negatives once I finally plug this cart into my trusty 3DS.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest--Of course I went with the version of Fates that will allow my male protagonist to woo one of the game's muscle-bound brutes, right? The question is: will that be enough for me to spend more time with Conquest than I did with Awakening? (Last time I looked, I'd put just under eight hours into the 3DS' first Fire Emblem title.) I don't know, but I sure hope it will, as I really enjoyed what I experienced of Awakening.

Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale--The PopoloCrois (or PoPoLoCrois, if you're a Japanophile) series has intrigued me since I became aware of its first entry, a PlayStation game. That RPG--as well as its sequel and roguelike spin-off, both of which also were PSone titles--featured some of the loveliest sprite-based visuals you're ever going to see in a video game. Sadly, developer Epics veered away from that aesthetic for this curious mash-up, which combines PopoloCrois' setting and turn-based battles with some of Harvest Moon's--I mean A Story of Seasons'--farming-focused gameplay. Oh, well, at least Return to PopoloCrois' polygonal graphics still look pretty good.

Witch & Hero 2--The original Witch & Hero first caught my eye about three years ago due to its 8-bit-esque enemies, which look like they were pulled from an old Dragon Quest game. I was a bit shocked when I actually bought and played this FK Digital title, though, as it plays nothing like that classic series of RPGs. Instead, it's a twitchy, arcade-action game that confidently leans toward tower-defense territory. Will this soon-to-be-released sequel be more of the same or offer up something new? I have no idea, but I'm anxious to find out one way or the other.

Are there any in-the-works 3DS games that are causing you to salivate in anticipation of their impending (during 2016) release? If so, let me know about them in the comments section below.